Modern Filipino food comes alive at chef Jay Tugas’s Los Angeles restaurant, Spoon and Pork
Jay Tugas was once a resident DJ at Philippine nightclubs Where Else? and The Establishment. Now, the “Manila-grown, LA-based” chef runs Spoon and Pork: a modern Filipino restaurant decorated with a Plate designation from the Michelin Guide, serving dishes that the Los Angeles Times and New York Times have recognised as among the best eats of 2019.
“I’ve always had the love for cooking and eating,” he states matter-of-factly, explaining his foray into the culinary world. First feeding hungry Californians with a food truck in 2017, Tugas and co-owner Raymond Yaptinchay were warmly welcomed into the competitive F&B community—just three months after they opened, the four-wheeled iteration of Spoon and Pork was named the best food truck in Los Angeles by LA Weekly. Emboldened by such a whirlwind success, the chefs then put up their first brick-and-mortar restaurant in Silver Lake two years later, and more recently, a second outlet in West LA.
Speaking on the restaurant’s philosophy, the pair shares: “Filipino food is much more than adobo, lumpia, and pancit; we want to show different aspects of our cuisine. Our country has a colourful history, and it shows in our food. We want Filipino food to be part of the conversation—we’re Filipino and proud!”
Learn more about the former DJ and the Philippine locales he’s looking forward to visiting, below:
What do you miss most on the food/drink front when you are away from the Philippines or haven’t been back for a while?
Fresh coconut water.
What is the first dish you want to eat when you return, and where do you go for it?
I go for street-side barbecue, lechon manok, liempo, bulalo, and Pancake House too.
Do you have a favourite restaurant in the Philippines? For fine dining and for more casual experiences?
Growing up, my family would always go to La Copa for special occasions.
If you have visitors/guests with you, where do you go to give them a real taste of the Philippines?
I would bring them to the Makati or BGC area for a night out, and then to the beaches to enjoy the island life.
Do you have a favourite bar and/or café in the Philippines?
San Mig [Pub] was one of our favourite bars to visit on the weekends back in the early 90s, and Mars was our favourite club [now also closed]. In the early 2000s, we always hung out at Where Else?, since I was a resident DJ there. Around 2009, I became a resident DJ at The Establishment in BGC, and that became our hang out spot every weekend. [San Mig Pub, Where Else?, and The Establishment are now all closed.] For a weekday drink, we would go to Manong’s [Grill] over at Filinvest.
Any other must-visit food/drink spots when you are back?
There are a lot of new places that have emerged since I left the Philippines back in 2004. Alba’s would be a good Filipino/Spanish restaurant. I would also visit Via Mare and Dencio’s for some more authentic Filipino food. I would also recommend going to the Dampa fish market, where you buy fresh seafood and then they cook it for you on the spot.
Do you take any food or treats back home with you from the Philippines?
I’d bring back Delimondo corned beef, Spanish sardines, and tuyo.
Where do you go to find authentic flavours of home where you live?
Honestly, my own home—I cook a lot of Filipino food.